When most of your life has been affected by addiction, you might feel somewhat prepared for anything that comes along. From the young age of 10 I had to endure a chronic alcoholic father who lied, manipulated, stole, cheated, did whatever he had to do to get that drink. He had a Jekyll/Hyde personality. Life for a child of an addict is turbulent, scary, and full of unknowns, a continuous emotional and physical battle.
As a child living in this environment you become either a victim or a survivor. Even the survivor is a victim to some degree. I believe I am a survivor only because I had to protect my younger siblings. They looked to me to hide them when things were scary, to step in when the physical fighting became intense. You are forced to grow up fast. I do not meet the characteristics of a “Daughter of an Alcoholic,” however, my younger sister does. My younger brother is, at the age of 60, still fighting his demons. My older brother managed his alcoholism throughout his life, but with consequences.
I hold many titles, Daughter of an Addict, Sister of an Addict, Friend of an Addict, but then comes the most devastating and heart wrenching title of Mother of an Addict. Blindsided over 2 years ago when the word ‘heroin’ entered my world, the floor fell out from under me, every part of my being ached, I was at a complete loss. My child, the youngest of 3, a fun-loving, carefree, beautiful little girl, allowed herself to enter a world that she would never be able to detach herself from completely. This is where my story really begins….
Yes, I could write a book. For now, I will do my best to put the events of the past 2+ years into a short story. There is no true way to put into words what a mother endures when faced with this life-changing event. It is no different than trying to understand what the addict endures. It’s quite impossible. Friends want to be there, family members stand together to offer as much support as possible, therapists, rehabs, Alanon, the list goes on. So many people in your life want to offer help, however, as a mom, you are truly alone in this battle both emotionally and physically. It is with you 24/7.
My daughter’s struggle is probably not much different than many other young people out there that have fallen victim to the disease. She went away to college, met the “man of her dreams,” and dropped out to marry him, and her life from that point spiraled out of control. Little did we know that he was an addict. Since she lived out of state, we did not see the decline until it was too late. The person coming home to visit was not my girl. Everything about her was different. At this point it was figuring out what to do, and it was the beginning of the struggle.
While having to work through all of the emotions at the same time as determining the logistics of how to proceed, it was a trying time to say the least. After months of lies, manipulation, stealing, and getting to the truth as to what was really happening, it was our time to decide, our time to act. My daughter had 2 choices: go to rehab with family support, or walk through the door and out of our lives. It was one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do in my life. But taking this hardline approach forces the addict to step back and realize the destruction they are causing to themselves and their families. At this point, it must be their decision to either get the help that they need or to continue down a deadly path and lose their family forever. I only knew this because of having watched my mother enable both my father and brother for so long in their addiction. Fortunately, our daughter chose to get help.
Now what? Where do you turn for help? Who can you call? Who can you trust for reliable, honest information? You are sending your child away to someplace you just Googled, gambling that it will be the right move. You are speaking to a sales person who appears to be compassionate; however, you know they really just want to make that sale. You want your loved one somewhere quickly so that you do not find them passed out or dead from overdose. It is a nightmare and one that you will not wake up from anytime soon.
After researching and finding what we thought would be the right place for her, my daughter went to rehab in Florida. Eighteen months clean and sober, then she relapsed. Nowhere along the way did I read or hear that relapse is part of recovery until it happened. That is how this journey works. You don’t know what is coming around the corner. You don’t know who or what to trust. It is trial and error because there is really no one to turn to for truly honest answers. The system has failed not just the addicts, but the loved ones of addicts trying our best to save our children.
During this relapse, our girl came home. We were not aware of the relapse until she was back under our roof and we began to see the familiar signs of drug use. She landed a good job and seemed to be on a good track, but odd behaviors were presenting themselves. Then the ball dropped. Just before Christmas of 2016 we received a call from the police. She had been arrested for stealing, and drug paraphernalia was found in her car. The roller coaster ride was starting all over again.
This time around, over 2 years later, nothing really changed. Here I was again looking for options. I had confiscated all of the drugs that she had hidden, took the car keys away, and hid everything and anything she could use to get money or drugs. She was on lockdown until we came to a solution. She was violent, she was hateful, she was destructive. Once again, the demons had invaded her body and soul.
After many calls and conversations, we gave her the option to get on a plane and go to a dual recovery center in Georgia. They would work with the underlying emotional issues while also providing treatment for drug use. I told her I did not like this person and she was not welcome in my life. My heart ached for her, but I was fighting demons again, and I was not letting them win. She made the right decision once again and is now 6 months clean and sober, living in California with a terrific support system and working in a Sober Living environment.
Is it the end of the journey? I can only hope and pray, but I will never let my guard down. Throughout this journey my husband and I have exhausted ourselves financially, mentally, and physically. We were fortunate enough to provide financial support to our daughter, but it has been crippling to our retirement. There have been windows of time when we can come up for air, and we hope that we can keep our heads above water, but we know that we need to be on guard in the case that an unexpected event does occur.
We have lost our little girl, but the person I see now is stronger. She seems more confident and sure of her future. She has let go of her past and the people that were instrumental in her downfall. My hope is that she will take this horrific experience and turn it into something good, not just for herself, but for others who struggle with addiction. She has the experience (though unfortunately) to assist others in their battle with this disease. For the rest of her life she must learn balance, to resist the temptations that will always be front and center, and to constantly fight and suppress the urges to re-enter the evil world of drug use.
Mom is always by her side to help her fight this battle, but I will never again allow the demons to enter my world. Addiction is a selfish disease. It will rob you of everything you hold dear. It will tear out your heart and leave you empty if you let it. The fight is real, it is intense, it is forever. I am a survivor once again, and I refuse to let this disease win.